“I hope that’s not how you live the rest of your life,” she said, only half-joking.
The shopping basket in my hand contained gauzes, tapes, and other packages claiming to either treat or prevent the assortment of injuries which I was now certain would befall my feet at any moment. Although I’d made it on the trail for three weeks without any such ailments, the tea-leaf feet of other thru-hiker hopefuls foretold a future of blisters and burns I wanted to avoid.
“They say we pack our fears,” she continued, prompting me to silently inventory the contents of my pack, stubbornly assuring myself of each item’s importance.
In another week, we’d abandon the trail which had – only recently – introduced us for one of our own. In another six, we’d traverse deserts and climb mountains, collecting sunburns and crossing state lines. In another twenty, I’d visit her in the city where we parted ways, trying to fan to flames the embers of a fire I’d only later realize had already burnt out.
The radio played on: “And I regret how I said to you ‘honey, just open your heart’ / when I’ve got trouble even opening a honey jar”.
I set the basket down and replaced it with her hand.